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2020 Audi A4 First Drive: The manicure

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Bolzano, Italy - To celebrate with dignity the 25th anniversary of the Audi A4, the folks at the Ingolstadt-based German automaker decided to give a manicure to its most popular sedan. This is not a new model, not yet anyways, but for 2020 it does benefit from an upgrade. Audi took the opportunity to add some tech features and give the body a few nips and tucks.

Family resemblance
In line with the other models of the brand, the A4 sedan adopts a more dynamic line and a more upmarket appearance for 2020. The shape is a little sporty, the Singleframe grille is wider and flatter and the horizontal lines emphasize the width at the front and at the back. The model also adopts a more enveloping style. LED lights are now standard. Europeans are entitled to the Matrix technology that is not yet approved in Canada. The Avant model keeps the same harmony in style and is one of the most beautiful wagon on the road right now. The shell is available in 12 different colours.

Photo: Audi

Redesigned interior
The current generation started out in 2017, 2020 is a transition stage with some body work without changing the structure, it will probably wait until 2023 for a new generation. That's probably why Audi has a tablet on top of the dashboard. There was probably no possible integration possible with the existing dashboard.

All this to say that this 10 inch tablet looks like an outgrowth and doesn’t belong in the otherwise harmonious scenery of the vehicle. Not that the new MMI, which functions as a smart phone, is uninteresting, but the screen is very poorly integrated. It's a temporary solution and it looks like it.

There’s also the 12.3 high resolution TFT display in front of the driver. Its graphics are customizable from the menu on the screen. The natural-language voice command, another function of the new system, includes many phrases used in everyday language, which must be learned to be well understood.

Photo: Audi

The navigation system is now more versatile and more user-friendly. In addition to reading traffic signs, this system also detects obstacles on the road, accidents and street parking.

Audi offers new interior finishes with design selection that combines different colours and materials in different versions. The Surround / Ambient Illumination Package adds shades of colour in the dark. The Audi connect key option allows the customer to lock/unlock the vehicle and start the engine using an Android smartphone.

Customization, another digital feature, allows up to 14 myAudi users to store their preferred settings in individual profiles. Three instrument combinations are available: two partially digital driver information systems and, together with the MMI plus, the all-digital virtual Audi cockpit.

Photo: Audi

One engine
While European market are entitled to no fewer than six engines, there’s only one making the trek to North America. Since 2016, all members of the Volkswagen group of brands have officially ended the sale of diesel products in Canada. All A4 models sold here will be powered by the 4-cylinder 2-liter turbo engine that produces 248 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque via an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Those waiting for the S4 may be in for a disappointment. The model is launching in Europe but with a diesel engine and 48-volt light-hybrid system. So you have a Tdi V6 with 347 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. It’s an impressive machine that we drove briefly at this launch event, but alas it is not coming to North America. Remains to be seen if Audi will make an S4 with gasoline engine...

Quieter drive
As the atmosphere on board is more serene, so is the actual drive delivered by the new A4. Audi appears to have gone a little soft in this respect. That little bit of sportiness we find in the current generation is but a very faint echo in the base model of the 2020 A4.

Photo: Audi

That said, it is possible to find a little more sensation with the adaptive suspension, which comes in two flavours. The first is the comfort suspension with damper control, which reduces the driving height by 10 mm for better handling without compromising comfort. The other is the sport suspension, which lowers the chassis by 23 mm (0.9 inch). It adjusts settings to create a little more dynamism.

Both controlled suspensions are integrated into the Audi Drive Select dynamic handling system. While the second suspension setting does deliver a more positive drive, it’s a shame you have to invest more money to benefit from something that should be part of the basic DNA of this model.

The Audi Drive Select allows the driver to determine which of the five profiles he should use. As you’re driving a German sedan, you also have the help of countless electronic driver assistance systems.

Photo: Audi

The optional systems are grouped in the "Tour", "City" and "Park" packages. The Tour package includes an adaptive cruise control including the Stop & Go function for automatic control of the distance between vehicles. Combined with predictive efficiency, it can brake and accelerate without the help of the driver. To do this, it analyzes messages, navigation data and traffic signs and can even adjust the speed if you go too fast in a new zone where the speed limit is lower.

The brakes are very responsive, in fact overly so, as we quickly learned. Our first braking manoeuvres sent the vehicle diving because we were a bit aggressive. You need to learn to modulate to get the right pressure on the brake pedal, but once you master that you’re fine.

This new A4 will retain its place on the podium in the luxury entry-level models. We particularly appreciated the Avant model for its practicality and its harmonious line.

We like

Generous space

We like less

Central screen badly located
Handling is a bit numb
Sensitive brakes

Photo: Audi

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